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Some parents get flustered when their child gets just old enough to ask, "Where did I come from," but the question actually becomes much more complicated and less biological as time goes on. Long, long ago during my first freshman year in college, one of my friends included a paranthetical aside in her letter, "What's happened to me?" She was simply wondering why her spelling abilities seemed to have deserted her, but even then the quetion hit me unexpectedly hard. She expected no answer, and I had none, but in many ways the years since have been spent learning how to answer that question and how to get others to ask it of themselves.

Who am I can be deceptively easy to answer with a geneological or even occupational answer. It has a static quality implying that there is an answer, one stable answer to be found once and held or forgotten. What's happened (or what's happening) to me suddenly introduces active forces, change, some suggestion that these forces are not under our control. When my classes begin, most of my students claim to be in charge of their decisions. They dress, talk, look, and act they ways they do through choice, not through the direct or indirect influences from outside. Some of them already know such isn't true, but they don't want to admit it, and others are startled when the truth begins to appear in their writing. The more they look and family, friends, teachers, the media, that whole overt and covert social system we live relative to, the more uncertain most of them become. The questions become so complex suddenly that any answer appears impossible.

One of the questions that often shows up in the writing is, "Why am I so shy?" When I ask the question directly, most students reply that they don't know and don't think they can figure it out. Still, out of all the interacting experiences, the events and even the genetics, that make us who we are, only one person was there for each and every one of them. "You." Whatever questions may be lurking about who you are, why you're you, why you're acting like who you aren't, you're the only one who has all the essential primary source material to sort out the answer---and resort, re-ask the question, revise, resort. When you begin to look at the "what's happening" question you find that there is no static answer. Each bit of understanding, each experience, each examination of experience, alters the sense of self. Accept that fluid quality and you'll find it's an adventure. Fight it and you'll find out just how deep bitterness and frustration can get.